The phone rang, once, twice … Rocio picked it up and looked at the screen. Jax … She hesitated, still unsure why she had given him her number. In case she got car trouble again sounded like a feeble excuse now, but when he said it, it had been enough to reluctantly make her write her number on the back of a receipt. She stared at his name and number that were flashing impatiently on the screen, and she let it go to voicemail. As soon as the phone stopped ringing, she couldn’t stop herself from feeling disappointed.
Damn it, she should have picked up. But what the hell for? She looked at the shabby walls of her home and the little furniture she owned. It was bad enough that he had seen the downtrodden neighborhood she lived in. If she started dating him, he would eventually also see what the inside of this hovel looked like … No, no way, she wasn’t going to let him in, neither in her house, nor in her life. She had seen the empty beer bottles on the floor in his Toyota, and there had been a few beer cans in the bed of the truck too.
She remembered all too well her life with Gustavo, Luis’s father. God, they had been so young. She was only sixteen when she was pregnant with Gustavo’s child. Back then he was good and sweet, he cared for her well-being, and he wanted to find work. After they returned to Acapulco, Gustavo finished high school, she had her child and got her high school degree by taking evening classes. Then, they traveled back to Los Cabos.
At first, all went well. Gustavo and she found a job at the same local grocery store, she as a cashier and he was busy stacking shelves and driving around carts with products. They rented a room for them and their baby and were saving money for an apartment. Then Gustavo got in with the wrong crowd. She didn’t realize it at first when they went to those parties. Gustavo had a few beers, no big deal, so did she. After a while though, she noticed the continuous presence of beer bottles in their fridge, and Gustavo was often sprawled on the couch with a bottle or a can in his hand.
The drinking increased. She tried to help him, but he refused any assistance and instead he turned to violence. She stayed, hoping he would return to being the sweet man she used to know, but to no avail. That sweet man was long gone, buried under layers of drunken rage and frustration. Things only got worse when he lost his job. Finally, she had no choice but to leave him. She did not want to raise Luis in such an environment.
And now, there were beer bottles and cans in Jax’s car … As soon as she saw it, alarm bells started ringing. She reluctantly admitted to herself that he did buy a lot of beer at the store. This didn’t look good …
The phone buzzed. Jax had sent her a text. “Did you get the car fixed?”
Her mechanic had picked up her car and taken it to his workshop. That was the last she had seen of it. She didn’t have money to pay for the repairs, and she didn’t want to use her savings, because she planned to use them for a better house. The money was for Luis, so he could grow up in a better enviroment. She wasn’t going to touch that. She just needed to save a few more months, and then she would have enough for a down payment on a little house in Cancrejos.
Cangrejos wasn’t great either, but the roads were paved, and it was better than the neighborhood she was currently living in. She knew very well that she would never be able to afford a home in one of those areas where the gringos or the rich Mexican families lived. She often looked at those houses with longing in her eyes, but she was realistic enough to know that that was just an unattainable dream … She was meant for the barrios. What did this New Zealander want with her anyway?
“Si,” she texted back, “Car is fine.”
Jax was fuming. What the hell had he been thinking? He glanced at the passenger in his car from time to time, angry at the gall of his long time friend.
“You shouldn’t be out, you know,” he said.
Smirking mischievously, Marc replied, “I stayed long enough. It was time to get out.”
“I’m not drunk.”
“You can barely stand. How the hell did you get out of that place in that state?”
“I started drinking as soon as I left, idiot.”
“You’re the idiot. I’m taking you back, right now.”
“No, you’re not! And who are you to tell me off? Look at those beer bottles, they’re all over the place!”
“They’re not all mine.”
“Like hell they’re not.”
Jax stared straight ahead, fixing his gaze on the road before he would do something that might get him a prison sentence. His friend was not ready to leave the rehabilitation center. If it had been a professional, governmental institution, he would not have been able to get out, but it was one of those private ones, run by ex-junkies and ex-alcoholics who wanted to help others who didn’t have the means to pay for a professional center. As effective as they could be, residents could just walk in and out at their leisure. There didn’t seem to be much control over that, even if there was a curfew.
“You should go back,” Jax tried one more time, but Marc snorted in disgust and stared out of the window, noticing a short, pretty, Mexican lady who stood outside of a workshop and was talking to a guy. She didn’t look happy, but for a brief moment she glanced sideways … her eyes met Marc’s for a few seconds and then she quickly turned her attention back to her companion … Marc was confused, he knew he looked like hell right now. He must have made a mistake, she had probably just stared at Jax’s ramshakle old vehicle that was in dire need of a painting job.
At that moment Jax also saw Rocio on the sidewalk. She was standing at the entrance of a mechanical workshop, in deep conversation with the owner. It didn’t look like her car was fixed. She appeared to be a little too concerned. Damn, and he had Marc in his car! Now was not the moment to talk to her.
Rocio saw him drive by, and she noticed the passenger in Jax’s car. She recognized the symptoms, a swollen red nose, his arm was swaying out of the window without a care, and his eyes were beady and watery. He was definitely on something, most likely alcohol. It might explain the presence of the beer bottles in the Toyota, and for a brief moment she found herself hoping that they belonged to the passenger and not to Jax. She looked away immediately and watched the mechanic enter his property. She followed him, not eager to find out more about the reparation costs.
She had enough to worry about now, money for the car, finding a way to pick up Luis from school every day, making sure she kept on saving … She shouldn’t have any hope when it came to Jax. He was just another no-good drunk. After her experience with Gustavo, she wanted no more of that. She had learned her lesson.
Then why did she turn around once more to watch him drive away?
Thanks for following up on Rocio and Jax 🙂 Stay tuned for part 3 (and conclusion of this story), coming up very soon!